Thomas Keller Debuts Exotic, Centuries-Old Pastry in Beverly Hills
Let’s get straight to the point: I’m a HUGE Chef Keller fan. It started while I was growing up in Marin and became was familiar with The French Laundry, the restaurant which put him on the world-class map. Then, on January 22, 2006, I had the incredible opportunity to dine there for lunch. Why do I remember the date? Because I saved and framed the menu which is still proudly displayed in my dining room. Yes, my world is now divided between “BFL and AFL” (before and after French Laundry – as Venetia Thompson so eloquently detailed in British GQ about her French Laundry experience).
So when I got the opportunity to interview the two key Chefs at the soon-to-be-open Bouchon Bakery Beverly Hills, I jumped at the chance! They will officially open tomorrow. Tonite I offer some insight into the minds – and hearts – of its two key Chefs: Rory Herrmann and Roy Shvartzapel.
Bouchon’s Chef de Cuisine Rory Herrmann will manage the savory production for the Bakery. Prior to Bouchon, he served as the Private Dining Chef for Per Se. Chef Rory is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute. He has worked under notable chefs in the industry, including 3-star Michelin Chef Alain Ducasse.
Head Pastry Chef Roy Shvartzapel will manage the sweets at the Bakery. Chef Roy played professional basketball in Israel for two years. Upon returning to the U.S., he took a waiter job which led to his enrollment in the Culinary Institute of America in 2002. Upon graduation, he met Pierre Herme who invited him to Paris to bake. Prior to Bouchon, he was Pastry Chef at the famed Cyrus restaurant.
The Chefs passionately shared that their bakery is the only bakery in Beverly Hills where everything is made in-house. Chef Keller started the original Bouchon in Yountville so that he could have fresh bread prepared for The French Laundry. From then on, every Keller property has had a bakery on-site. As Chef Roy put it, “We bake where we live.”
Chef Rory explained why the Bakery piece is so important to the total, because it “elicits a sentimental reaction from people and really represents family, community and generosity.”
Another difference is the unique pastry they will be offering called the Kouign-amann. You won’t find this at any other Bouchon Bakery … nor likely anywhere else outside of Brittany, France where it originated. They wanted to have a pastry all their own. Chef Roy came up with the idea. He had been exposed to the pastry while he was working with Pierre Herme in Paris. Everyone on the team loved it as the pastry has been around for centuries but very few people have been exposed to it. They said that the general reaction of those who’ve tried it is, “I can’t believe I’ve never had this before!” Unfortunately, by the time I got there, they were out already. Personally, I cannot wait to try it (wondering, of course, if it will make my DeathbedFood list).
For the “savory” portion of the menu, Chef Rory said he has something very “LA-esque: The Cobb Salad”. “Few bakeries offer a Cobb,” he said, “but almost everyone in LA seems to want one. And, if it’s not offered on the menu, they ask for ‘Romaine, blue cheese, egg, bacon’ – basically a Cobb salad!” Adding that this would never happen in NY.
Basically, the Bakery will offer something for everyone … even the dog can get a dog biscuit! Will this usurp? TBD.
So, what’s in store for the opening tomorrow? They open at 7:00am. At 9:00am, they will have a ribbon cutting ceremony with the Mayor of Beverly Hills. And, with the fan base Chef Keller always elicits, likely lots of crowds.
I’ll be there tomorrow and will report back about the action, including: Chef Rory and Chef Roy’s DeathbedFoods, my review of the Kouign-amann, and more. Stay tuned.